Thy Word Is a Lamp unto My Feet

Lisa Nichols Hickman listed four verses for just reflecting on how the margins of the Bible serve as a ring of light.  Psalm 119:105 is the second one I am considering.  This response is a bit more personal.

It’s hard for me to read these words without thinking of the Amy Grant song:  “Thy Word Is a Lamp unto My Feet,” which really takes me back in time.  When I was in seventh and eighth grade, I was part of a singing group called the New Spirit Singers.  Now just about every church has a contemporary service (and many only have a contemporary service), but in the 1980s it was kind of a new thing to sing contemporary Christian music in church.  This is among the first praise songs I learned, and I have such vivid memories of singing it to the startled congregation in church.  We always woke everyone up!

As I thought about how to illustrate this verse, many ideas came to me.  I thought of drawing a path with a light post.  But I found that I kept coming back to this time in my life when the Word of God came alive to me in such a powerful way.  Just for fun, I started looking through old pictures, and to my surprise, found a picture of me from 1987 standing by a lamp post and wearing my New Spirit singers shirt.

This seemed like a good opportunity to use Tai Bender’s retro stamps.  The page got a little messy, but putting it together was a good reminder to me of how blessed I’ve been to always have God’s word in my heart to shape me and guide me.


Leave a Little Sparkle

I’ve made it to the last prompt in Writing in the Margins.  What a journey it’s been!

The margins are certainly a sacred “ring of light,” a circle of blessing around the biblical text.  Consider that space a halo of sorts.  Turn to any of these psalms, which are reflections on that light, and write a prayer of thanks for the radiance and sacred presence you have found in the margins.

Then Lisa Nichols Hickman lists four verses, the first of which is Psalm 97:11:  “Light is sown for the righteous and joy for the upright in heart.”

As I pictured light being sown, the image of a sparkler came to mind.  Fireworks bring me joy, too.  Once I had the idea, the only trick was to make it happen.  I did a few trails on photo copy paper before beginning in my Bible.

I started by masking off part of the page and applying two coats of gesso:


Then I stamped my sparkler image onto masking tape on waxed paper, which I cut it out….(The stamp set is from Winnie & Walter.)003

I put the masking tape images on my paper before covering the area with “Chipped Sapphire” Distress ink.  I used a slightly damp foam applicator to spread the ink.  (Now that I have gesso, I am a bit obsessed with Distress inks.)  And my kids demanded to know:  WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOUR BIBLE?!?:


I stamped my sparkler image and the word “sparkle” with chalk edgers.  Then I added a little glitter, wrote the Bible verse along the edge, and added a sticker at top.  Honestly, I added the sticker to help fix a little tear in the page, but I think it works!


My prayer:  Lord, thank you for the ways that making art in the margins of my Bible has brought light and joy into my life!  AMEN




Dreaming of Art Supplies

Last night, my husband came to bed after I fell asleep and said, “Sally….I shut the lid to your laptop.”  Just the way he said my name and paused with grave seriousness, I was sure he was about to tell me we had some kind of emergency.  My heart was racing.  Once I settled down, I realized that my husband woke me up from a dream of using Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pens in my Bible.  (I don’t own these just because without careful page prep I have heard that they bleed.)

I lay there for a while trying to get back to sleep, thinking what an amazing and fun learning experience it has been just to learn about all the amazing art supplies available today and all the ways it’s possible to use them in my Bible.  I’ve learned so much from Rebekah Jones and her wonderful art tutorials.  I was watching this one before bed…

WordPress tells me that most people stumble upon my blog looking for what supplies to use in the Bible.  Let me say from personal experience, it’s easy to get carried away!  The main point of Bible Journaling, of course, is simply to spend time in a creative way in the Bible and to meditate on God’s Word so that it’s in our hearts.  Really all that’s needed is a Bible, a pen, and maybe some nice colored pencils—the most obvious choice for adding color to the page, no page prep needed!

Michael’s has a great 50% off one item coupon today and 25% off the whole purchase, and there are still supplies that I am literally dreaming about, but Christmas is coming and I keep telling my kids they may have to wait before we bring anything more into our house.  I feel like a kid again myself this year; it’s so hard to wait!  Today I am feeling the irony of this “someecard” statement:  “Because only in America do we wait in line and trample others for sale items one day after giving thanks for what we already have.”

Give Thanks

I snuck in just a little time for Bible journaling between baking a pecan pie and spending time with my whole family gathered together at Gramma’s.  The kids are sleeping and happy.  Feeling very grateful and blessed tonight.

Gesso is inspiring me to try new things.  I started by sketching the verse in pencil and then wrote over top of this with Micron pen.  I also did a light pencil sketch of my pumpkin.  Then I put down two thin coats of gesso, used a wet paint brush to apply a wash of distress ink, and then added water color pencils.  Even though its possible to write on top of the gesso, I like to do it first just because pencil marks seem easier to erase this way.



He Must Increase

This is the last of the bonus prompts from Lisa Nichols Hickman.  (I still have one more prompt from her book Writing in the Margins.)

She asked us to reread the story of the woman caught in adultery.  She suggested that when Jesus bent down to write in the sand that perhaps he wrote a note to the woman.  She suggested answering the question:  What would Jesus write in the sand to you?

Looking at my notes from the Illustrated Faith event, what I wrote down on my hand-out:  “Get out of the way.”  At the time, what I thought I meant was that Jesus would like me to create more space for God to be at work in my life.  But “Get out of the way” also seems like good advice when you are standing before a big crowd contemplating throwing stones at you.

Since I have already heavily illustrated the page with the story of the woman caught in adultery, I decided to look for a verse that speaks to me about stepping back and making more room for Jesus.  I decided to illustrate a quote from St. John the Babtist, who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I thought I’d share some in progress photos this time.  After months of waiting, I finally have some Art Basics clear gesso!  It was totally worth waiting for!  My first experience with gesso was kind of a disaster.  The gesso was something I picked up at a craft store that was thick, left brush strokes, and was almost impossible to write on.  Art Basics clear gesso was a much better experience!  It prevented the Distress Inks from bleeding through the page and still provided a nice smooth, surface for writing.  I would highly recommend it!

A new friend at the Illustrated Faith event showed me how to use sticky notes to mask part of the page:


The page wrinkled after I put the gesso on, but it flattens as it dries (Don’t stress!!!):


I applied some Distress ink:


And wrote down the verse:


After rereading this passage (John 3:27-30):

A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, “’I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.”  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom.  The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegrooms’ voice.  Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.  He must increase, but I must decrease.

I found myself praying:  Lord, help me love and honor you as a best man would honor the groom at a wedding!  Just for fun, I looked over a list of best man’s duties on the knot.  I laughed a little thinking about the job of planning a bachelor party for Jesus, but it’s also the best man’s job to be a faithful witness, to give a toast to the couple (which often ends up being a testimony), to carry the ring (a sign of the covenant), to help do whatever the groom asks, to dance and to enjoy the event, to basically help the groom shine on the couple’s wedding day.  I think these are all beautiful examples of what it means to let Jesus increase!

The Things Jesus Has Done

Here’s another fun bonus prompt from Lisa Nichols Hickman that I received at the Illustrated Faith Event.  She suggested reading John 21:24 and thinking about what you would write in your book of what Jesus has done for you:

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did.  Were everyone one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

After we had the opportunity to think about it, Lisa asked people around the room what Jesus has done from them.  Answers ranged from miraculous health improvements to my very favorite answer from a high school girl:  “Jesus gave me a friend.”

As for my own answer, well, it could fill a book:


I wish that I could credit who first came up with the stack of book idea to illustrate this verse.  I’ve seen this verse done a number of times in the Journaling Bible Community and also on Pinterest board examples from the book of John.  This seems like a good opportunity to share that there is an awesome Pinner who has arranged all of the Bible Journaling examples by book.  How cool is that!?!

Trying Something New

I was so excited about the Illustrated Faith event before I went that I made myself write down a list of what I hoped to accomplish, just so I would have some way of knowing whether the trip led up to all my feelings of anticipation.  And as I looked over my list, everything I hoped happened, but there was one small thing I did not check off my list:  I wanted to try scraping acrylic paint in my Bible with a gift card.  (I totally chickened out and resorted to colored pencils!)

I did pick up a little “Wow God” journal that was included with a “Wow God” stamp set that helped me gain the confidence to do this.  At first I was excited about the stamps and unsure what to do with the little journal.  I came home from the day inspired to keep reducing the clutter in my home.  I am embarrassed to say that this nice little book for a short while found its way to the recycling bin.  I thought, “I probably won’t use this, and I’m not sure who to give it to.”

As I started to see how people used their journals in the Journaling Bible Community, I felt inspired.  The little journal would be the perfect thing to practice what I felt too scared to do in my Bible and it would be fun to fill in the journal along with others doing the gratitude challenge.  So I got some acrylic paints and started credit card painting.  I found the care-free splash of color look a bit hard to achieve.  My first attempts resulted in a paint mess all over the page.  But then I saw a page that I liked on the Facebook group and shamelessly copied it.  Once I did that, I could see how little paint is really needed and how the paint really just needs to be background color for the stamps.  Then I easily came up with my own creation below.

Here’s the steps I would take to do this in my Bible now:

  1. Write down the Bible verse and/or any thoughts you want to write down in the margins to know how much writing space you will need.
  2. Imagine where you might use the stamps.
  3. Think about what background colors would work well with the stamps.
  4. Place the paint on a paper plate or palate and dip just the corner of the credit card into the paint. Apply the paint to the page sparingly in a thin coat.  (For the rainbow stripe, I used a q-tip to put six dots of paint on the card before I dragged it across the page.)
  5. Stamp
  6. If desired, use a paint brush to fill in the stamps with more paint and re-stamp over top of the paint to get a crisp outline as I did with the little bird.
  7. Journal
  8. Add stickers or any other elements the page needs to achieve a carefree look.


Make Haste to Help Me

This entry in my Bible requires a little backstory.  At the Illustrated Faith Event, Lisa Nichols Hickman shared Psalm 38:22 from The Message where it is translated:  “Hurry and help me; I want some wide-open space in my life!”  Then she asked us to write down an answer to the question:  what fills the margins in our lives? (Particularly what keeps us from spending quality time with God.)  She took answers from the group:  Dishes, driving kids around, laundry, work, Facebook were among the answers.  I guess I’m at a point in life that has pressed me into realizing just about anything that has to be done in service to others can be spiritual practice and time with God.  One thing that came to mind for me was the clutter in our home and the need to simplify our lives.  What I wrote down…

I pray that God will take our cluttered home and transform into a welcoming space where true hospitality can happen.

Then I went home and read all of Psalm 38, which struck me funny in the context of my prayer.  Psalm 38 is a prayer of deep lament and repentance, and I don’t mean to trivialize the Psalm with my journal entry, but there is a sense where the way the verse reads in my own Bible:  “Make haste to help me O Lord, my salvation” does apply to what often feels like a hopeless situation at our home!  I know part of it just living with a three-year-old.  Seriously, as I am typing this, she is crumbling Styrofoam into little pieces in the living room.  (I might need to pause and finish this later!)

a few hours later…

One of the best parts about my trip to the Illustrated Faith Event happened the night before.  I had the opportunity to see Connie Dennenger’s studio and hear how her home has become a neighborhood gathering place for prayer, craft time, and Bible Journaling.  I was really awakened to new possibilities!  I just discovered she has pictures of her studio on Pinterest!  I enjoyed just watching people’s faces as they walked into Connie’s home and also her studio.  Everyone has a look of pleasant surprise.  People who had travelled a long way that day seemed to be resting comfortably and enjoying desserts.  Her home had such a warm and welcome feel to it.

By way of contrast, when people walk into our living room they do their best to disguise a “What has happened here?” look.  And if it’s another parent, an “I hope my child wasn’t responsible look.”  Maybe it’s just a surprised look, because our Cape Cod house looks so small from the outside and when you walk in there’s immediately a big room with two-stories to it.  I kind of remember seeing the same look on my husband’s face the first time we walked into the house.  For better or worse, “Make haste to help me O Lord, my salvation” has quickly become my tidying up prayer!!!

I’ve been exploring the possibilities of using Luiquitex heavy body acrylic paint in my Bible.  A popular technique is to use a credit card to scrape paint onto the page.  There’s a lot of nice things about using acrylic paint in the Bible, especially with stamps like I used below, because the paint tends to protect the page from bleed-through by the stamp ink.  I find it helps to think through where the stamps will go, how much space is needed for journaling first.  Generally, it tends to work out better when paint is used sparingly.



Praying for Paris

At the Illustrated Faith Event, Lisa Nichols Hickman encouraged us to read Psalm 139:15-16:

You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother’s body.  When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed.  All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.

and then write down our three best days, our two worst days, and something about today.  We had time to share at our table.  I was surprised to hear someone at my table tell me that her best and worst days were both at the same time in her life, but for different reasons.  Sometimes we find the most unbelievable blessings in the midst of the most unimaginably bad days.  A young lady shared with the whole group that Psalm 139:16 Bible came to mind for her on the day her toddler died, maybe as a reminder that God would be with her even through the tragedy of this life.

When I think back over my life, I can remember so many more wonderful days than bad days.  Surely one of the best, most crazy, fun, romantic days of my life was one that I spent in Paris with my boyfriend (now husband!) while we were in college.  Paris is a wonderful place for romance and love!  And it feels like one of the saddest days to learn that a city with so much beauty could be besieged by ugly violence.

Psalm 139 has always been one of my favorite of the Psalms.  Until today the verse “Oh that you would slay the wicked” has always felt like an interruption to a deeply personal prayer.  Today those words took on new meaning.  On the way to the Illustrated Faith event, I listened to three hours of Craig Barnes lectures on the Ten Commandments given to me by parents for the car ride.  With regard to the third commandment, he said, to commit violence in the name of God is taking the Lord’s name in vain.  His words were ringing in my ear as I read:

Oh men of blood depart from me!  They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain.

God, I pray that this violence will come to an end.  I pray for peace.  I ask that you will be with the Parisians in this time of grieving and fear, and I pray for something beautiful to come of this simply because I only know Paris as a place where beauty is created.  I pray that your love will surround and comfort all those who mourn and that you will bring healing to all those in need.  Especially, be with the doctors and nurses and first responders.  Pour out your blessings on the city at this most difficult time.  Amen.


Illustrated Faith Virginia

I was blessed to attend the Illustrated Faith Virginia Event over the weekend.  I could write pages about all the thoughts and ideas and inspiration I took from the experience, but maybe it would be best to simply tell the story through the three pages I journaled at the event and upon coming home.

Shanna Noel spoke in the morning and she shared a very practical way to begin Bible Journaling.  Simply go to church and take notes during the sermon.  Then go home and illustrate the Bible passages from the sermon.  She played a sermon for us, and we all quietly listened and took notes.  Then we were given time to illustrate the passage.  A funny thing happened to me at this point.  For weeks, I had been looking forward to the opportunity to journal in my Bible together with others.  But I found that I really needed some quiet alone time to find some inspiration.  So I camped out at the back of the church sanctuary just long enough to read the Bible passage, to hear what God was speaking to me through it, and to think how I wanted to illustrate it.

The biggest blessing to me on this trip was to hear so many stories of how God uses the ordinary circumstances of women’s lives to minister to and bless others.  Shanna’s scrapbooking blog became the launching point for an amazing Bible Journaling ministry.  Connie Denninger, the author of Vintage Grace, shared stories with me of how her home studio has become a place where people from her neighborhood gather to Bible Journal and pray for one another.  Diane Marra of His Kingdom Come told me of how she adopted a young girl only to discover that God had bigger plans for her; the girl had two sisters, who also needed a home; Diane took in all three.  As I read these words

Set your mind on things above, not on things that are one earth.  For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

I began to get a strong sense that God surprises us in all kinds of ways when we set our minds on things above and simply take a step back.  The words “Adventure Awaits” seemed to apply.  At the very end of the event Connie shared that she often prays the Thomas Merton prayer:  “My Lord God.  I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead.”  That seemed to be the beginning of many great adventure stories I heard at the event, so these words found their way onto the page, too, once I got home!

Thomas Merton Prayer

Thomas Merton Prayer

The sermon we listened to suggested that if we want to transform something not quite right in our life the first step was to be aware of the problem and the second is to own it.  The next thing to do is nail it to the cross and then to have compassion.  As I tried to name something that trips me up, the first thing that came to mind was a few cross words that I had with my three-year-old the night before I left to attend the event.  One of Paul’s pieces of advice in Colossians is to put away anger, and I knew I somehow needed to put a reminder to myself to just cherish this time with my little girl, not to get frustrated with myself or her.

The next day, I started looking for some pink paper to make a dress.  I could only find one piece and it happened to be one that my daughter and I had used earlier to paint hearts with celery sticks last Valentine’s day.  The messy, painted paper spoke to me.  I’ll know in an instant what this means to me when I open my Bible.  I also used a few of the gifts that were in my bag to add trim to the dress.  And wrote this prayer on the underside of the dress:

God, help me each day to put anger away.  Teach me to practice gratitude and to cherish each moment, especially to enjoy the moments my children are young.

Not only was Shanna Noel at the event, but also Lisa Nichols Hickman!  I kept pinching myself!!!  Shanna happened to share a passage from Colossians that included the verse that offered so much inspiration to Lisa’s book.  As I added more things to this page, I decided I wanted the words:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” to pop out a bit more.  I settled on the idea of just writing them fresh on a piece of orange origami paper:


It was just absolutely amazing to be in the same room with both Shanna and Lisa, who have both been such an inspiration to me!  During Lisa’s talk, she shared a few more Bible Journaling prompts!  I was rapidly reaching the end of the ones in her book.  We didn’t have a lot of time to put her suggestions in the Bible, but she did give us time to talk and share our initial responses with our table.  And it is really nice to hear how God speaks to others through the scripture.  (I’ll share my full responses soon!).

The event was definitely a “Wow God” moment.  I felt so inspired by Shanna, Lisa, and Connie!  Something that I’ll take away from the day is just a vision of seeing over 170 women gathered from all different Christian backgrounds to worship God through art.  It’s so beautiful the way that art transcends denominational differences and brings the Word to life in new ways.  I have a deeper appreciation for the many ways that Bible Journaling has blessed others and a bigger awareness for the reasons that others get drawn into Bible Journaling.  It’s clear to me that this is just the beginning of something bigger, and it was special to be with others who share that same vision.